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Chinook Technical Outdoor Rockhopper 3 Trekking/Hiking Pole Review




What's Good: amazing price for a good-quality, anti-shock pole.


What's to Improve: on the heavier side, but really a small price to pay for the anti-shock feature. You may have trouble locking the pole to length after many trips. 

For years I thought hiking poles were quite unnecessary and really kind of a hassle. But then my knees began to act-up and I borrows a friends pair of pole to try. Needless to say, I was rather surprised at how much I liked the feel of them. Once I got home I did some research and found that some studies had shown that over an eight-hour hike as much as 250 tons (225 metric tons) of pressure could be removed from your legs! Shortly thereafter I rushed out pole shopping to have some before my next trip.

There's a wide variety of choice out there when it comes to poles, and they cover a huge price range. I decided upon a pair of the Chinook Technical Outdoor Rockhoppers because they didn't look a whole lot different from poles that were two to nearly five times the price. Plus they had the anti-shock feature which seemed to be included only in the competition's far more expensive higher-end poles.   

The Rockhopper is actually three sections of aluminum that can be easily adjusted to the proper length for your height and the terrain that you're currently on. You give them twist to unlock a section, then pull or push it to the desired length, and give it another twist lock it back in. When going on extended uphill portions I usually make them a little shorter so I can lean on them for extra power, and make them a little longer to help with balance on big downhill sections.  I've found that after a couple of seasons, the locking mechanism has become really touchy and I need to do a fair amount of fiddling to adjust the pole length.

With another twist, you can activate the anti-shock. I pretty much always keep it activated. It really does seem to help ease the strain on you arms as you lean on them. The pole's strap also has an extra section of cushion to pad the side of your hand - which becomes a welcome feature after several hours on the trail.

The poles do add a very noticeable amount of stability when you're walking on uneven terrain or crossing streams and allow you to maintain a pace that would be difficult without them, especially with a heavy backpack on. There's been many a time when I've taken an awkward step and been saved from a fall by my trusty Rockhoppers.

On some more popular trails that cross over rocky slabs you can, sadly, often look down and see the pock-mark scars left in the rock by the metal tips of  everyone's trekking poles. Some manufacturers now offer little grippy rubber tips that can be used to cover the metal tips when on this type of terrain to prevent further damage. A few poles come with them, but you can purchase them as an add-on for most others. The people at Chinook Techincal Outdoor, however, have thoughtfully included these with the Rockhoppers.

Every Rockhopper also comes with two interchangeable plastic baskets for the bottom. One is smaller and meant for summer use to keep the pole from sinking into the sand, dirt or scree as you plant it, while the other basket is much larger and meant for winter use with snow.

I've now completed about twenty-five trips with them - and the trips I do are not merely hikes though the woods. We're talking twenty five scrambles that most often involve 1000 to 2000 meters of height gain over technical terrain. I've leaned on these poles for power while ascending rocky slabs, used them like ski poles for balance while treadmilling down gullies of sharp shale, and for support while crossing streams and rivers. On only a small part of the trips were they pampered on soft, pine needle-covered trails. While they are getting pretty beat up, they're still going strong and are always a standard part of my trip gear.

I'll pass along one handy tip that applies to all poles. After much use and abuse, the sections don't always seem to collapse and expand as smoothly as when brand new. So, if after giving them  a twist to unlock, they won't expand or collapse no matter how much you tug, then try planting the them in the ground and stepping on the sides of the basket to hold the pole down while firmly (but gently!) pulling or pushing them until they do expand or collapse. This extra bit or leverage often does the trick. Just don't overdo it!

For the price, I feel they represent excellent, unbeatable value. Any hiking pole taking the type of abuse I throw at it will eventually wear out, so it makes sense to me to buy one that has a lower price point without sacraficing quality. The Rockhoppers fit the bill perfectly.

I paid $14.98 CAD per pole.

Check out the discussion in the Comments area below for helpful tips.



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